Something about classic scary cartoons stirs up nostalgia more than the average every day animation. Is there something about being scared at the same time as entertained that we hold on to from childhood?
Every year at ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery, (home of Cinema Siren) October offers the opportunity to play all the best classic Halloween cartoons over and over, since they're a gallery favorite. This year seemed like the perfect opportunity to list the best creepy cartoons ever made. None of these are too scary for most kids, and perfect for playing on a family night at home.
Our experience in the gallery, however, is adults are far more likely to sit and watch them over and over than their kids are. Of course, no one needs an excuse to play The Nightmare Before Christmas one more time, a movie we have the soundtrack to in three languages ... (English, French, and German). It is, however, an opportunity to educate our friends about it's greatness, as well as the greatness of other creepy classics. And with that in mind, here is my list of the top 10 Halloween cartoons of all time:
No. 10 — The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949):
Packaged as part of the post-war Disney featurette The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Legend has a terrifying and great scene of Ichabod being chased by the headless horseman, not to mention narration by Bing Crosby and a great song. It is loyal to the original story by Washington Irving, which means it leaves some doubt as to the survival of Ichabod at the end. Enjoy the music and one of the best villains in Disney history, who "achieves his aim" with the least amount of airtime.
No. 9 — Lonesome Ghosts (1937):
Four green phantoms invite Mickey, Donald, and Goofy who are "Ghost Exterminators" over to their haunted house to drive them crazy—a gorgeous piece of vintage animation, with classic characters we all love. Note the detail in the backgrounds. Goofy's quote "I ain't afraid a' no ghosts!" was used in some movie later…
No. 8 — Broom-stick Bunny (1956):
The first cartoon to use June Foray's voice for Witch Hazel, it is widely considered the best of the WB cartoons featuring the character. The backgrounds are highly stylized in the tradition of the best of the Chuck Jones directed cartoons, and critics gave high praise to the witty dialogue written by Tedd Pierce.
No. 7 — Hyde and Go Tweet (1960):
This Friz Freleng directed cartoon is arguably the best featuring characters Sylvester and Tweety. It brings knuckle-dragging into your dreams at night! Tweety accidentally drinks a formula that makes him a huge yellow monster with bulging eyes and he terrorizes Sylvester—as he still terrorizes Tweety lovers whenever they watched the cartoon. Notice how "monster Tweety" breathes. Hilarious!
No. 6 — The Skeleton Dance (1929):
Black and white Silly Symphonies cartoon with skeletons rattling their bones joyously. It's like the perfect Halloween Busby Berkeley cartoon. Creepy! A very early Disney cartoon before many experiments lead to advancements in animation, and yet still plays as one of the most beautiful cartoons ever made.
No. 5 — Water Water Every Hare (1952):
Bugs as a beautician-fixing, tennis-shoe wearing monster Gossamer hair—who doesn't remember that classic cartoon moment? "Monsters are such interesting people!" And the big-headed evil scientist as he floats in an ether induced haze, while edited from more recent versions of the cartoon, is a classic example of "anything goes" in classic Looney Tunes!
No. 4 — Trick or Treat (1952):
Another result of legendary Donald Duck cartoon director Jack Hanna, but this one is many a Disney aficionado's favorite. It introduced Witch Hazel, who was voiced by famed voice artist June Foray (who we mentioned in No. 8, Broom-stick Bunny). With Huey Dewey and Louie's costumes and the stylized backgrounds, it showed just how vibrantly colorful a Disney short can be.
No. 3 — Night on Bald Mountain (1940):
Horror fans will point to Fantasia as their favorite movie not because of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, but because of the dark and emotionally intense segment with the demon Chernabog, and at one point, bare breasted redheaded harpies! …and in a Disney cartoon! Leave it to Disney animation genius Bill Tytla!
No. 2 — It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966):
Some will argue for this Peanuts classic, and the third special, to be No. 1. Linus as the eternally hopeful optimist does inspire fierce loyalty in fans, and rightly so. It also makes subtle reference to open-mindedness and tolerance towards less traditional beliefs. Linus waits with the sign "Welcome Great Pumpkin" for him to appear in the pumpkin patch on Halloween. We have all the usual delightful suspects to enjoy, and Linus's philosophizing to deepen our and our children's thinking.
No. 1 — The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993):
Back when it was released, this was a sad little bomb, but it was MY sad little bomb and I have the original underwear, tie and watch to prove it. It has traveled in time and become a colossal cult classic, helping to keep teengoth store Hot Topic in business. The songs, the love story, the diverse cast of lovable secondary characters, the amazing world created in the mind of Tim Burton, and directed by Henry Selick, all come together into a Halloween masterpiece.